South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg is new chair of Liberals’ Pacific Caucus. File photo

South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg to chair federal Pacific Caucus

New role takes over from Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai, who resigned after Atwal controversy

South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg has taken on a new – and influential – responsibility in Ottawa.

On Wednesday, he assumed duties as new Pacific Caucus chair for the Liberal party, a role formerly occupied by Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai, who resigned the position last month amid fallout from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial trip to India.

The chair of the caucus – which includes all 18 Liberal MPs from B.C. – has a leadership role in shaping priorities to best voice issues of importance to B.C. constituents.

And as chair he will report regularly on those issues to the party’s national caucus, Hogg told Peace Arch News Thursday.

“I have developed a draft strategic plan to look at how we can influence policy and legislation coming forward and making sure we have a strong B.C. voice having an impact in Canada,” he said. “I think we can be, and have been, quite persuasive,” he added, noting that the higher number of B.C. MPs in Ottawa also adds weight to voicing issues from all regions of B.C.

He said he also sees the position as a chance to organize fact-finding meetings both in Ottawa and in B.C. to help bring forward issues – he noted B.C. residents’ keen interest in the environment as one of them – on a national level.

He is interested in co-ordinating B.C. MPs’ efforts with municipal governments’ and the provincial government, he added.

“We’re most effective when all three levels of government are involved,” he said.

Hogg, who was elected to the position by fellow caucus members last week, said he had been approached by colleagues who noted his recent three years’ experience as government caucus chair as a BC Liberal MLA in Victoria.

“It wasn’t something I’d sought to do. I spent some time thinking about it because I haven’t been here that long – but in the end I decided to put my name forward,” he said.

“I’m honoured that my colleagues have entrusted me with this.”

Sarai, who had been caucus chair since 2016, stepped down after taking sole responsibility when it was discovered that Jaspal Atwal – a Sikh extremist convicted of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986 – had been invited to attend receptions with Trudeau in Mumbai and New Delhi.

In a Twitter announcement on Feb. 27, Sarai said that he was resigning as chair because he didn’t “want to distract from the good work of the Pacific Caucus.”

Hogg said he thought Sarai had been “an excellent chair” of the caucus, and that he had sought his counsel in preparing to assume his new duties.

“I’ve thanked Randeep on more than one occasion for his willingness to support me and assist me in taking over the role,” he said.

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